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NAB okays graft references against Sharifs, Dar

Updated September 08, 2017


Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal arrive to attend a meeting in Islamabad in this 2016 file photo.— APP/File
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal arrive to attend a meeting in Islamabad in this 2016 file photo.— APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) approved on Thursday four corruption references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his three children and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in compliance with the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama Papers case. The references will be filed in Islamabad’s accountability court-I and II on Friday.

The decision was taken at a much-awaited meeting of NAB’s executive board presided over by its chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry.

“It was decided to file four references in the accountability courts in Islamabad/Rawalpindi. The references were prepared on the basis of the material collected and referred to by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in its report and any other material collected by NAB during the course of investigation,” said a handout issued by the bureau’s headquarters.

According to a spokesman for NAB, the three references approved against Nawaz Sharif and his children Hassan, Hussain and Maryam include those related to Avenfield properties (Flat No16 and 16-A, 17 and 17-A, Avenfield House, Park Lane, London, United Kingdom), Azizia Steel Mills and Hill Metal Company, Jeddah, Flagship Investment Limited and 15 other companies owned by the Sharif family.

No decision on arrest of ex-PM, his children and putting their names on ECL

The meeting approved the fourth reference against Ishaq Dar for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income.

The NAB chief praised the bureau’s Lahore and Rawalpindi regions for completing the assigned task within the stipulated time. He directed that prosecution of the cases be pursued vigorously in the accountability courts.

No decision was taken about the possible arrest of the Sharif family members and putting their names on the Exit Control List as the NAB chairman had reportedly refused to do so and devolved this responsibility on the courts.

Now the accountability courts can order the arrest of the former prime minister and his children and even Finance Minister Dar.

It has been observed that usually NAB itself issues arrest orders for the accused even in petty white-collar crime cases, but the NAB chief is reluctant to lay his hands on the Sharifs.

On Thursday, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan demanded the arrest of the Sharifs and Ishaq Dar and said the finance minister should leave his office immediately after the approval of a reference against him by NAB.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has already rejected the JIT report and claimed to have pointed out more than 50 mistakes and loopholes in the report and decided to challenge it in the Supreme Court.

In the light of the JIT report, the apex court had on July 28 disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister and directed NAB to complete the investigation process and file references against the Sharif family in six weeks.

Avenfield properties

According to the JIT report, the Sharifs had given contradictory statements about their London flats and found that the flats actually belonged to them since 1993.

The report said Hassan Nawaz had contradicted the statement of his brother Hussain Nawaz about the Avenfield apartments, who had earlier stated that only apartment No 17 was in his possession in 1994.

Contrarily, Hassan confirmed that three Avenfield apartments (No 16, 16A and 17) were already in possession of Hussain when he had arrived in London in 1994, while they got the possession of the fourth apartment (17A) in the next six months.

The JIT observed that either one or both brothers had lied to hide some facts and hence they could not be given the benefit of doubt. It said Nawaz Sharif had distanced himself from the apartments and could not explain the time frame and procedure adopted for obtaining the possession of Avenfield apartments by his sons, and was even uncertain about which son claimed the ownership of the flats now. But he told the JIT that he usually stayed in apartment No 16 (Avenfield) whenever he visited London.

Azizia Still Mills

The Sharif family had established Azizia Steel Mills in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, after being forced into exile, with an initial capital of Rs7 billion. After the death of family head Mian Mohammad Sharif, the mill was sold to an Al-Tuwairqi Group conglomerate.

The family appears to have wrapped up the major business in Saudi Arabia and only holds diversified investments there.

In his statement before the JIT, Hussain Nawaz said that $0.65 million had been spent on purchasing the land and $6m spent on it and that money was received from Qatari adjustment and one unnamed Saudi friend gave $8m for the purpose. He did not give any details of these transactions.

Hill Metal Company

According to the JIT, Hussain Nawaz’s Hill Metal Company earned a profit of $9,977,882 from 2010 to 2015 and $4,042,603 had been sent to Nawaz Sharif during that period. The former premier received $8,913,301 in terms of gifts from the company and Hussain, which equals to 88 per cent profit of the company.

Hussain Nawaz also made remittances of around Rs69.228m to his sister from HME in 2008 and 2009, the JIT report said.

Sixteen other off-shore companies owned by the Sharif family are: Flagship Investments, Hartstone Properties, Que Holdings, Quint Eaton Place 2, Quint Saloane, Quaint, Flagship Securities, Quint Gloucester Place, Quint Paddington, Flagship Developments, Alanna Services (BVI), Lankin SA (BVI), Chadron, Ansbacher, Coomber and Capital FZE (Dubai).

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2017